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Last week we saw that we are to stay pure, stay focused, and stay humble. We saw how Jesus preached through Noah to the spirits who are now in prison. Now Peter tells us something that seems completely contrary to Scripture. We know Scripture doesn’t contradict itself so let’s see what’s going on.
Take a look at 1 Peter 3:20 – 4:6
Peter’s seemingly contrary words are, “Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you.” Corresponding to what? Corresponding to the water that saved Noah in verse 19. Corresponding comes from the word that means a thing formed after some pattern or a thing resembling another. The meaning here is that baptism corresponded to, or had a resemblance to the water by which Noah was saved; or that there was a use of water in the one case which corresponded in some respects to the water that was used in effecting salvation. Peter does not say that it corresponded in all respects; but there is a sense in which water performs an important part in our salvation, as it did in Noah’s. The water did save Noah and his family by bearing up the ark allowing it to float. Water played a part in Noah’s salvation and in ours. Water is symbol in both. Notice Peter’s disclaimer, it is probably marked by dashes or parentheses in your Bible. “Baptism now saves you—not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience—through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” This verse could be spoken, “Baptism now saves you through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” Baptism is a symbol of our salvation. Baptism now saves you through the resurrection. Salvation is not a cleansing of our outsides, it is a symbol of the washing of our soul, of the cleansing power of the resurrection of Christ. No matter how carefully you clean up, simple cleanliness cannot save you. Remember how Jesus described people who were careful to make sure their outsides were clean, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” (Matt. 23:27-28) Peter concludes this section of his letter by reminding his readers where Jesus currently is. Verse 22 concludes this thought by saying that Jesus is, “is at the right hand of God, having gone into heaven, after angels and authorities and powers had been subjected to Him.”
Hopefully, we’ve cleared up Peter’s seemingly contradictory words, now Peter says arm yourselves in v. 4:1. If we are to arm ourselves, it looks like we are to have a weapon. Peter says arm yourselves with same purpose or mind of Christ. A readiness to suffer in the cause of religion, a readiness to die as Christ had done. It is a state of mind when we are ready to suffer and be persecuted and be engaged in trials and adversity, and be ready to die for Christ. Peter is telling us that we need to be like Christ in the hard times. It’s easy to glorify the Lord when life is good, but let’s face it, life is hard. How we act in adversity shows who really has our heart. “Then his wife said to him, ‘Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die!’ But he said to her, ‘You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?’ In all this Job did not sin with his lips.” (Job 2:9-10) Peter is calling for us to arm ourselves with the mind of Christ. Verse 1 goes on to say, “Because he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin.” To suffer in the flesh is to die. The real meaning here is that when you’re dead, you won’t sin. You may be thinking, “But I’m not dead.” In 1 Cor. 15:31 Paul said, “I affirm, brethren, by the boasting in you which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily.” When you look at 1 Cor., Paul speaks frequently about his trials and afflictions, and troubles, and perils, yet he chose to continue. In Gal. 2:20, Paul wrote, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” Living for Christ is a decision we all must make daily because life is hard. Things happen that cause us to be drawn away from Christ. If a Christian becomes dead in a moral sense, dead to this world, dead by being crucified with Christ, then Christians may be expected to cease from sin. The idea is that there is such a bond between Christ and the believer that His death on the cross enables the believer to die to this world. 2 Tim. 2:11, “It is a trustworthy statement: For if we died with Him, we will also live with Him.” Col. 3:3, “For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” Rom. 6:11, “Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.”
We’ve armed ourselves, now what? Peter now tells how not to live. Vs. 2-3 say. “For the time already past is sufficient for you to have carried out the desire of the Gentiles, having pursued a course of sensuality, lusts, drunkenness, carousing, drinking parties and abominable idolatries.” Today is the first day of the rest of your life, your time in the flesh. Don’t live it to fulfill the lusts of men, but live it for the will of God. 2 Cor. 5:15 says, “And He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.” Accepting the free gift of salvation is a serious commitment. It should not be entered into lightly. “For the time already past is sufficient for you to have carried out the desire of the Gentiles.” It was never okay to live a life that fulfilled the desires of the flesh. No matter how long you have lived, you’ve had enough time to sow your wild oats; you’ve had enough time to live the life of your choosing. Peter contrasts our new life in Christ. One is determined by the will of God. The other is fulfilling the desires of the Gentiles. You can’t have it both ways though. You can’t be in the world and in the church. You can’t serve two masters. You must make a choice. You might even say that you didn’t know any better. If only someone had told you about God. In Rom. 1:18-25, Paul provides evidence that God has given every human being the inner desire to know Him. Just in case anyone is in doubt about what Peter is saying, he goes on to make a list. “Having pursued a course of sensuality, lusts, drunkenness, carousing, drinking parties and abominable idolatries.” This is a list of the things they engaged in before they came to the point of salvation. There must be a turning point in our life; one that marks the end of living for yourself, the other that marks the beginning of living for God. Remember back in 1:14-15? Peter said, “Do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior.” That type of behavior should be in our past. This line of new life will stir up trouble. With friends. With family. With co-workers. People will say things like: “He’s found religion.” “He’s all churched up.” “He’s been brain washed.” “He’s fallen off the deep end.” Acts 26:24, “While Paul was saying this in his defense, Festus said in a loud voice, ‘Paul, you are out of your mind! Your great learning is driving you mad.’” Peter says it this way: “In all this, they are surprised that you do not run with them into the same excesses of dissipation, and they malign you.” These are not kind words. Malign comes from the same word where we get blaspheme. Most folks who engage in the activities Peter talks about will not respond with kind words. In many cases, your so called friends will try to derail your new found love of Christ. They will not accept your new life. They’ll criticize your convictions. They won’t understand. We have to get all we can out of life. We only go around once. They don’t think that they are doing wrong because everybody does it. Much of the time, your friends will abandon you. They can’t or won’t see that the lives they are living will lead to destruction, after all, they’re only having a little fun. Look at Peter’s conclusion in verse 6. Remember what Peter is talking about in this book. Suffering, persecutions, trials. Even though some may die in the flesh for the Gospel, they will live in the spirit by the will of God.
Living the Christian life is hard. Living for Jesus is hard. Don’t let your present circumstances keep you from living for God.